Always on her feet: Legacy dance studio owner follows artistic passion, creates opportunity for others to do the same
Bella Barnum Collier did not plan on being pregnant with her first child the same year she opened a dance studio in Glenwood Springs, but that didn’t stop her from doing it.
“Shortly after starting my business and my dad getting his cancer diagnosis, me and my husband talked, and it was really important to us that my dad get to experience being a grandpa, because he was the best grandpa,” Collier said. “And so we moved our timeline ahead a little bit … I don’t just do things, I do things big. I go big or go home.”
That was in 2017, and although she and her family lost her father to his battle with cancer last June, she said at this year’s dance recital at Two Rivers Park she still felt his supportive presence cheering her and her students on.
“Our performance was this last weekend … and it was amazing. I was bawling on Saturday night during the last performance. I had danced there… and so just looking out and seeing that crowd again, seeing those smiling faces and just being able to offer that was just really special,” Collier said. “We definitely still hear his voice, even last weekend I swear I could hear him cheering in the crowd. Because he was always our No. 1 fan, always there helping out.”
Collier grew up in Glenwood Springs dancing at GWS Center for the Arts as she grew up. When it came time to perform her senior solo, she choreographed a dance titled “Brave” and brought her entire family on stage with her.
“There was not a dry eye in the house. It was just such a cool moment, it was something that hasn’t been done before, and just the visual of us all standing on stage … I had them all in black and I was wearing white,” Collier said. “At the beginning of the dance we were all dancing together, and by the end of the dance I was standing on stage by myself. They were standing behind me and it was like they were there to support me, but it was my time to be brave.”
She’s a middle child — her younger sister Bailey Barnum is six years younger than her, and they had an older sister Nicole who had severe disabilities and passed away in 2012. Choreography that specifically stands out to Collier is a contemporary piece she put together for a trio based on a dream she had to an a cappella cover of Disturbed’s “Sound of Silence.”
“The concept was a dream that I had when I woke up and I was in this heavenly place. My older sister who had passed away and my best friend who had also passed away (were there) and we kind of reunited in heaven. The concept was what would you do if you got the opportunity to see those people again,” Collier said.
Barnum’s first time dancing was at 18 months old, on the sidelines of one of Collier’s classes. Collier said she remembers her teacher at the time watching her sister follow along and decided it was time to order an extra tutu and choreograph her into the dance as well.
“Dance has always been home for us, it’s very much our special bond. It’s always been a part of who we are and it’s always been there for us in the hard times,” Collier said.
After the GWS Arts Center closed, Collier took it upon herself to open Legacy Dance Studio — a name that she specifically chose to reflect her family values and show its permanency, a place that could continue providing dance instruction even after her time. Barnum said she’s always looked up to her older sister, but seeing her step up into the role of a business owner so local youth could keep dancing just adds to her attitude of wanting to empower others.
“She just has so much drive, she always has. But she took this upon herself and she created this company and, partially for me so that I could dance my senior year. … She makes sure that everyone rises with her,” Barnum said.
On top of her responsibilities as a dance studio owner, Collier raises her 2 ½-year-old son Jesse with her husband David, she’s the vice president of the board of Defiance Community Theater, a Starbucks shift supervisor and online college student at Arizona State University pursuing a degree in digital audiences. She’s also a nature enthusiast who loves to camp, hike and connect her bare feet to the earth whenever she needs to unplug.
“I’m really passionate about local nonprofits, and my goal is actually to use that to then go help these nonprofits that have such important work that they do, and so many people don’t even know about it. … Cold brew is what keeps me going, it has a little extra caffeine in it, I run on cold brew,” Collier said.
2021 will mark the five-year anniversary for Legacy Dance studio and Collier said along with opening up another room in the building for classes, there are also plans to add another teacher and begin offering dance classes for adults. Barnum added she’ll be focusing more of her time as a teacher at Legacy and continuing to work alongside her sister doing what they both love.
“Her and I, we’ve been through a lot together in life, and work and dance. It means so much to me that we get to share this together, and that we always have and we always will. I just hope that she knows how special she is,” Barnum said.
Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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